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Manasicha Wongpaiboon

Ms. Whitney Gilchrist


Literacy Narrative

February 12, 2017

Literacy in Color

Being of Thai-Chinese ethnicity, my first words were Mae or in other words, Mommy in

Thai. I barely spoke English At a very young age, I invariably had a preference for math and science.

Rather than completing crossword puzzles and word searches, I spent endless hours playing Soduku.

Reading and writing was not always my forte and at a young age I was never fully passionate about or

interested in words or writing, specifically of the English language that I considered to be foreign and

unknown.. I learned numbers and how to add and subtract by the age of three, but was not able to learn or

spell out the English alphabet until the age of five. Along with this fascination for numbers, my first

memory of reading and writing was based off of the book Click, Clack, Splish, Splash, and as expected,

was a book about kindergarten math. Although a book in reference to mathematics, it was the writing

itself that I distinguished from the numbers. I remember becoming fond of the words and perhaps at this

moment is where I truly grew for the love and ardor for reading and the way it stood out to me on the

pages and how they made me think and challenge myself as I tried to recognize and understand them.

Soon enough I was enrolled in preschool where my growing vocabulary of English words ultimately

progressed into sentences and phrases. At this time in age, I enjoyed composing poetry and stories that

gave me a medium to channel my love for writing. Whether it was rudimentary dialogues and words that I

spoke, my preschool and kindergarten teachers were fond of my writing and even regarding me as a

sponge for absorbing every word they threw at me and for writing at a middle school level in

elementary school.
Although my parents were both not completely fluent in English, they were still knowledgeable

of the grammar present in these phrases and assisted in my correction of them. They took every initiative

to improve my speech and writing, to formulate me to become a better writer and speaker than they were

at my age and to make me connoisseurs of language in both Thai and English. There were independent

classes within my Charter school that assisted in the enrichment of vocabulary and grammar, the two

components of writing that the school system presumed to be most impactful. Following the enrollment

of these classes all throughout elementary and middle school, the entirety of my knowledge of the English

language was augmented due to these classes. Conceivably, my earliest faults in writing was not

grammar, style, or prose, but spelling. I often overlapped the two languages, spelling some words in

English the way I would in Thai. My teachers and mentors at the time were fond of this dedication I had

for being bilingual but did not consider this an excuse for my poor spelling. I remember sitting on my

bunk bed with my little brother on the bottom bunk playing with his car toys while I was on the top bunk

with a pen and a piece of paper writing every single word that was in my vocabulary and attempting to

spell them all out. While spelling and writing out every single term within my dictionary was not entirely

possible nevertheless, I tried. My parents bought me tens of books on spelling of rudimentary words that I

soon brought to school with me. While my friends were out in recess I stayed after class with my teacher

to assist me on the transition from speech to spelling. After hours of studies and lessons from my teachers

was when I mastered the art of spelling.

Memories of my first literacy experiences are notable but sparse yet its mark still echoes in my

present day writing. My endearment for writing continued to grow throughout high school even if classes

did not allow me to. With few writing assignments and papers and little free time on my hands, I

channeled writing into my college assessment tests and applications. I learned to balance between

expounding my thoughts and creating frugal writing, facets of organization in writing that I was never

able to master. Through this medium I learned to not only compose my writing in a pristine way, but I

uncovered some components of myself that I was not aware prior. I studied and developed skills and
creativity based off of my curiosity to the different types of writing that I have yet to explore. Writing was

essential to my academic career, as well as my potential career. The extensive hours and challenges of

language and writing honed my skills and with it, I was able to earn a perfect score on my ACT and SAT

writing, as well as being accepted into my dream university and recognized as a scholarship recipient

within the university. As for my potential career, I received numerous offers from doctors throughout the

Tallahassee area to allow me to shadow; a not only essential but a critical facet of a resume when

applying to medical school.

Although my academic style of writing has allowed me to progress in my academic career, I have

ultimately lost my voice and style in writing. Under rare circumstances do I use the word I or utilize a

first person stance in my writing due to the ingrained consequences in my mind that I was molded to

conform to. Any use of my own voice below the surface of formal writing was frowned upon and my

personality became lost and evicted from my writing. Although this has stirred some scathing criticism

from myself it has assisted in my research papers and applications. As a student pursuing on the pre-

medicine track, I find myself benefiting from this cold and passive style of writing when writing papers

and abstracts for my professors over the course of the last semester. However, there was no choice in me

to distinguish my voice from abstracts or literacy narratives. As a result of this constraint, there was no

longer literacy in color or cultural mosaic in words on my paper.

Over the course of winter break I found myself reading to my eight year old cousin. It had been a

number of years since I had read something outside of the bounds of school. Her book was filled with

mainly an array of pictures and words in large font that consumed the spaces of the page. There was

something nostalgic about this reading however, something serene and content to me that was

unimaginable. The writing was lighthearted and rudimentary which took me aback of how unfamiliar I

had become with this natural style of writing. Reading with her out loud was soothing, there was

something special that connected my past to her present; we were sharing experiences and comfort with

one another by reading such a primitive piece of work. At this moment in time I realized there was more
to writing than just passiveness and agreeableness, there was voice and there was color not on the pages

but within the words of the book that allowed me to find myself in my writing again.

Recently, I applied to and contacted a number of doctors within the Tallahassee area to shadow.

Tallahassees nature as a collegetown had made it significantly difficult to secure a spot in shadowing or

observing doctors with thousands of students awaiting for the same position. It was in my writing that

stood me apart from the rest of the population and was what secured me a position as a shadow for

Tallahassee Memorials Family Medicine Residency Program. It was one particular doctor that had

contacted me back to not only take me under his wing but to illuminate him on my culture and

background; he never encountered a student with much voice in a writing piece and wanted to know me.

It was here applying for a professional position that found my voice again and my writing explicitly

displayed perspectives from a student of color.

I am in debt to writing and literature. It is not only an impact on my academia but a root for my

personality and perspective and most importantly a foundation for all my accomplishments. Writing has

invariably been a medium for me to express myself through. Growing up an Asian American in South

Florida where my race was a minority it often shaped my experiences and in turn, molded my writing.

After being mocked for my appearance and ridiculed for my language, branded for my skin tone and

labeled for my eyes, it was writing that became a backbone to my hopes and dreams.

You dont belong here.

Are you from China?

Your name sounds weird.

Do you even speak English?

These were some of the most common dialogues of silent racism that I endured within the first

few years of school. It was through these troubles that I found my channel through writing in a diary to
formulate all my thoughts, emotions, and pain. The more I was ridiculed was the more I wrote. This

became a silver lining through the growth of my childhood. From rebuffing to learn the English language

to now working my way to become a connoisseur of it, I owe it all to writing for keeping me on my feet

and breaking stigmas.

The moments leading from picking up my first book until writing this literacy narrative were all

due in part to the holistic nature of the connections between my world and literature. Components of

literature can be found within my experiences such as characters, constructive settings, continuous plots,

and resolutions. This interpersonal connection to my own experiences and a piece of art that I have

continuously strained to overcome made my academic career and future conducive to growth and success.

Writing has invariably been significant in the role that it has played throughout my experiences growing

up. With it, I learned the significance of cultural literacy and was able to integrate it with both my culture

and my identity. Reading and writing are the underlying facets of communication and humanity. It is the

foundation of growth in all aspects and has played a prominent role in telling a story for all lives and here

is mine.